IBM says it’s open to working with Facebook on digital currency

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In this photo illustration, a visual representation of a cryptocurrency sits on display in front of a Facebook logo.

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IBM is open to working with Facebook on its digital currency efforts, an executive at the company told CNBC.

Jason Kelley, IBM’s general manager of blockchain services, said the firm was looking to foster “collaboration” across industries when it comes to a technology like blockchain.

“Blockchain is a team sport,” he told CNBC on Monday. “Our clients are ready to work with (Facebook) and we’re ready to work with all of them to bring it together.”

Kelley said it was important to distinguish between talk of cryptocurrencies and the “tokenization” of assets, where everything from currencies to stocks can be issued on a digital ledger. He said a company like Facebook entering the fray helps to bring more legitimacy to the underlying technology.

Companies like IBM have taken the principles behind cryptocurrencies like bitcoin to create their own blockchain solutions that organize data across a distributed network of computers. The benefit of doing so, they argue, is that it creates more transparency around everything from banking to supply chain management.

Many have been quick to draw the distinction between the likes of bitcoin and Facebook’s planned libra coin, which would be pegged to a basket of currencies like the dollar. The currency will be overseen by a Swiss consortium of companies that includes Facebook, Visa, Mastercard and Uber.

Kelley didn’t say whether IBM was interested in joining the consortium, which is known as the Libra Association.

“We talk about libra and people say it’s just another crypto,” he said. “Set crypto aside and talk about tokenization, because that’s what we’re talking about.”

But regulators have come down hard on the social media giant over its proposition, with European heavyweights France and Germany both threatening to block it from the EU. Facebook last week met with global central bankers to address their questions on libra.

Facebook was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.

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